N. Korea sets 3 conditions for nuke talks
North Korea set three conditions on Friday to be met before it would consider returning to six-party talks on its nuclear programs.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the official KCNA news agency that the United States must drop its hostile policy and be prepared to join a compensation package in return for the North freezing its nuclear programs.
The North also said the United States must accept its proposal to discuss what it called "South Korea's nuclear problem" first at the talks, referring to tests with nuclear materials conducted in the South by scientists in the past that Seoul said had never been authorized.
"The DPRK is approaching the six-party talks strictly in its interests," said the spokesman. "In other words, it will attend the talks if they prove helpful to it."
DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
A senior State Department official said the North Korean statement was merely familiar rhetoric.
"The real issue is will they come back to talks. This is not about them masking the fact they haven't come back to talks with rhetoric," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia have met for three rounds of talks but failed to meet for a fourth planned for September. Most analysts agree the North is waiting to see who wins the Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election.
In Washington on Friday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung called on North Korea to return to the six-way talks, warning Pyongyang it would face the "gravest consequences" if it used atomic arms or missiles.
"The U.S. and (South Korea) are committed to the dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear programs and called on North Korea to cease the testing, development, deployment and exports of weapons of mass destruction," the Pentagon said in a statement after regular bilateral consultations.
A proposal backed by the five other countries has offered compensatory aid -- probably from South Korea and Japan rather than Washington -- in return for a freeze as a first step to Pyongyang dismantling its atomic projects.
Washington seems unlikely to agree to provide aid yet and is also unlikely to agree to discuss the South's nuclear tests first. The North's demand about "hostile policy" is standard rhetoric that covers a shifting range of complaints.
"The countries participating in the six-party talks must look at reality before they raise the issue of holding the next round of talks," the spokesman said, according to KCNA.
That was a possible swipe at traditional ally China, as well as at Washington and its allies Japan and South Korea. China's leadership this week urged the visiting North Korean parliamentary chief, who is second only to leader Kim Jong-il, to restart the talks.
"The resumption of the six-party talks depends on whether the U.S. is ready to fully consider the demands raised by the DPRK," the North's ministry spokesman said after listing the three conditions in a long, rambling sentence.
KCNA had already said on Thursday that the prospects for more six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programs were gloomy because the United States had pushed the negotiations to a stalemate.
South Korea and the United States have told the North not to wait for the result of the Nov. 2 presidential election because a win by Democratic candidate John Kerry over President Bush would bring little change in U.S. policy.
The latest nuclear crisis erupted two years ago when U.S. diplomats said North Korea had said it was running a covert uranium enrichment program. Pyongyang has since denied this.